An ugly kerfuffle has broken out at the highest levels of the African Union’s coronavirus containment effort, with the makers of a medical app accusing one of Africa’s most renowned businessmen, Strive Masiyiwa, of purloining their solution and using structures loosely associated with the union, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to try to raise funding.
Masiyiwa, who is also the convenor of the African Union’s Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), and who was appointed to that position by current African Union president Cyril Ramaphosa, strenuously denies allegations of purloining another company’s product and makes a series of serious counterclaims.
The dispute underlines the rich potential of the African medical market, particularly for technology solutions, which have been substantially boosted with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
The dispute is much more than a battle of the apps, in this case PocketPatientMD and Health Status Report (HSR), because apparently the parties had been working on the idea together, so the case involves claims of misappropriation of intellectual property.
To make it worse, the makers of PocketPatientMD claim Masiyiwa defamed them in the highest ranks of the African Union, by falsely claiming that they had not been working together at all.
Documentary evidence suggests they had been working together, although the precise nature of their cooperation is now hotly disputed between the parties.
The co-founder of PocketPatientMD David Rice, says their platform has been live and in use in multiple African countries for most of this year.
The app performs a range of functions aimed at connecting “stakeholders” to a health ecosystem, including recording patient records and linking with government programmes.
All of these actions have become suddenly so much more vital in Africa during the coronavirus pandemic, since maintaining stable databases of health information is rare on the continent.
Rice says he and Masiyiwa go back a long way and personally discussed their ideas several times. The fruit of these discussions was a joint effort that formally began in 2018 with a company called Cassava Fintech, which is part of Masiyiwa’s substantial business empire.
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